Grant to South Portland, Portland funds STEM education

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The state’s two largest school districts will be collaborating on a new educational program thanks to a multi-year grant from Texas Instruments.

The global semiconductor design and manufacturing company, which has a plant in South Portland, will give $150,000 over three years to establish a science, technology, engineering and math academy to be shared by the South Portland and Portland public schools.

The academy, which will be available to students in eighth through 10th grades, will emphasize educating minority and female students, who are often under-represented in science and engineering fields.

Anne Gauthier, a TI spokeswoman, said the districts applied for the grant together, and the Dallas-based company was “very interested” in supporting the academy.

“This is a good opportunity for the two districts to show what a STEM academy can do for students,” Gauthier said.

She said the goal of the grant is to make sure students have the right science and math foundations to keep their post-high school options open. She stressed the “importance of options” for students in STEM-related fields, and said it is “disheartening” to see students who don’t have options after they finish high school.

“The more we can compliment whats going on in the school the better,” Gauthier said. “… Our goal is to make sure students have options to go into any STEM field. If they have that foundation they have their options to do whatever they want.”

The grant will provide $50,000 a year. Gauthier said the academy will be an attractive option for “under-served students that might not have opportunities to work in more in-depth science and math.”

She said South Portland Superintendent of Schools Suzanne Godin spearheaded the application process, reaching out to Portland Public Schools officials to collaborate on the application. TI received the application in early April and announced the grant on Wednesday, June 24.

Gauthier said each district will host its own academy in a high school, but that each location will be open to students from the both districts. There will not be a building constructed to house the academy.

An additional $70,000 in grants was announced for the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Learning Works, and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance. Gauthier said TI has worked with these three organizations in the past.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or